Many visitors to Cillandar hear tales of Spottle, a game played by Cillandrial nobility. As it is a gentleman’s game of chance, it is often used to settle disputes by those of higher station in the Realm.
There is no doubt that Spottle is quite popular among those of greater means, however, many commoner’s would argue that Pockens requires more study and certainly more practice. In fact, it has been said by Chief Archeaologist Duher himelf that to fully understand Pockens’ many strategies could take a lifetime. Pockens is a common man’s game, and like a good brew, the Celn citizenry regards it as one of their finer entertainments. From sailors around the Crown Isles to those brave enough to live and trade near the Sea of Sands to the East, Pockens is found throughout Greater Cellinor.
Pockens is an ancient game from an ancient time. (Spottle by comparison, is said to have been created one night during a drinking marathon in the Rusty Sabre, to settle a dispute between a Mage who had a frog familiar and one of his love interest’s suitors). Pockens, like so many other Celn traditions and customs is not unique to the Realm. In fact, reference to the game can still be found among the few Kasillian artifacts available on display in various museums throughout the major cities. From whence it came, and to it’s true origins, no one can say. Much speculation exists, but most simply just enjoy playing it.
The game itself appears simple but is in actuality complex and requires skill in addition to luck. A “deck” of pockens consists of 52 cards from which players will draw a “hand” of 7 cards. There are usually 4 players, but the game can be played with as few as two. Each player plays a role:
The Hero, the Trickster, the Dying God or the Great Mother. Although versions of the game vary, as do the cards themselves and various images found there, the basic premise is the same. Each role offers a negative to the player, but grants other advantages. Therein lies one of the chief components of Pockens requiring proper strategy.
The cards themselves are arranged in five categories. Four of these categories represent cards of numerical value associated with The Hero, The Trickster, the Dying God and the Great Mother. The fifth category represents figures, places and events that “occur” during gameplay. The typical and most popular Celn version of the game relies on motifs quite common among the realm and is infused with iconography of the Order of the Flame. However, other versions are common or sought after by collectors.
For instance, a popular Trebian version represents the Four Heroes as animal headed halfs. These motifs are quite taboo in most of the realm though and they can be difficult to smuggle in or around Cellinor.
Although most Pockens’ enthusiasts claim to know much about the lore and history of their cards, and take both the typical Celn superstitious and Cillandrial arrogance about it, many do not know that Pockens was also believed to have been used to tell the future. Although the practice is now quite taboo and subject to Inguisition of the Highest Degree, Pockens as a means to predict one’s fate has survived in certain circles.
Whichever version you play, you are sure to find certain cards that always have different meanings within the game. Some of these are as follows.
The Three Circles: Each card represents one of the three Moons, known collectively at times as “The Sisters”, as “The Three Lights”. Each moon is slightly of a different size. Ordinarily, they dominate their own portion of the night sky and advance towards the nightly horizon one at a time. When these cards appear in the game, they usually change the nature or pattern. Each has a unique impact, but if all three should appear simultaneously then the game comes to an end.
The Sage: The sage card or as it is colloquially known “The Pointer Card” does just that. It points to whatever card comes next and gives advantages to whichever player drew it.
The Tree: The tree is the foundation of the game. It is the first card that must be played. Without it, no other cards can be cast. Seven “branches” or sections typically lie on the game board around the tree from which players may cast other cards. Often, especially in richer cities such as Cellione, players use elaborate game boards to represent the tree and her branches. Oftentimes, these are family heirlooms and their work beautifully carved into oak to represent the seven branches of the Tree.
The Path: The path is simply a reference to the card numbers. Each of the four sections range in numbers from 1-12. They are, depending on the game version or strategy, usually played in order from least to greatest. Cards cannot be played more than one at a time. A complicated, and somewhat illogical combination of events must happen during gameplay for the next in the series of cards to be played. This can at times, frustrate the novice player. Advanced players typically remark that one must simply learn these game nuances. In any event, Celns take great pride in their memorization of these game events, which do differ depending on which part of the realm one plays.
The Dragon: The Dragon is a card that gives both advantage and disadvantage to the caster. Once the dragon is played, it’s dynamic on the game changes everything, and even the order in which the cards in Path may be played. Colors associated with the cards are referenced when the card is first cast so that different cards are thus affected differently.